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J. Rawlings: Address to World Summit

Address to World Summit 2019, Seoul, Korea, February 7–11, 2019


Our host Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, Dr. Thomas Walsh, Chairman of the Universal Peace Federation; Excellencies, Heads of State and Former Heads of State, Distinguished Guests and Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, It is an honor to join you here again for the Universal Peace Federation World Peace Summit, six years after I last joined you in Seoul.

The theme of this World Summit 2019 is one that has preoccupied me most of my adult life, both in my capacity as a young officer in the Ghana Air Force and head of state of Ghana for close to two decades. As a young flight lieutenant in the Ghana Air Force during the period of military interventions of the 1970s, I understood that peace could never prevail while corruption and injustice were destroying the fabric of our society. Since that eventful decade, often known as the “lost decade” in development terms, the world has become more interconnected, more open, and more committed to democratic values.

Ladies and Gentlemen: As part of our quest to build a world of mutual understanding, sustainable peace and prosperity for all, part of our framework for achieving these laudable goals can be found in the UN Sustainable Development Goals 16 and 17, the last two of the SDGs. Goal 16 urges us to “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

Thus, Goal 16 recognizes that without justice and accountability for all in our society, there can be no peace. And, as I have always said, there should be no peace when the values that bind us together as a society worthy of emulation are corrupted by unworthy leaders. This was the principle that governed our actions in Ghana in 1979 and again in 1982.

But, Ladies and Gentlemen, how do we implement global partnership for sustainable development if we do not confront the challenges of the current global political climate and the dearth of international morality of some of the world’s leading nations? How do we engender peace and security when some of the very forces that seek to impose their moral compass on us are no apostles of international political morality? Dr. Moon was sharing with us a suggestion she made to some Chinese about investing a tiny proportion of their military or security budget into providing peacemaking comforts of life.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I am glad that we have a number of high-powered American citizens with us, and I hope my comments will be taken in good faith. Even though we were colonized by an English-speaking country, my children did not go to China or Russia for their education. None of us speak Chinese or Russian. We are still allies living and working together.

The United States needs to do some readjustment in order to restore the image of a liberating country. The United States will have to find a better way of taking the cause of justice or democracy to needy areas. There was a time when America had the image of a liberator country. But her approach of late is undoing the image and making her look like an aggressor. If America is trying to undo the socialist or communist economic philosophy; capitalism has replaced communism in Russia and significantly in China, so why is there a persistent antagonist policy especially against those two countries? An impression is created that the United States is trying to control the world.

Mahatma Gandhi once said he was in search for the truth in God when it dawned on him that God actually lay in the truth. Without the sanctity of truth, without the sanctity of freedom, and without the sanctity of justice, the quality of democracy we want to espouse will lose its value.

Some years back when I was in office and President Zuma was in charge of the intelligence machinery under Nelson Mandela’s presidency, he came to Ghana on a visit, and I implored him to do everything possible to ensure Mandela’s health and security. Mandela had become the conscience of the world. The quality of his truthfulness and candor was very liberating and refreshing; the savagery of capitalism, using Pope John Paul’s words, would not be too happy with the power and authority of Mandela’s truth. A few years later when I left office and Mandela was also out of office and had become such a great icon, I called on him and suggested a way to preserve his voice and conscience through other outstanding and noble personalities, for the benefit of the world when he passed on.

The United States, the old ally, needs help to see that her liberating image is becoming the image of a unipolar power bent on controlling the world. If her economic and moral might cannot do it, there is no reason why she cannot do so by military means. This thrust is not only creating stress and discomfort but is contributing to insecurity and some very serious human rights violations that are contributing to the undermining of international political morality.

The persecution that the Palestinians have been subjected to all these years does not only affect Israel but the United States as well. If Israel can ride on America’s shoulders and continue provoking other countries like Iran and Syria, why wouldn’t Saudi Arabia also enjoy the same privilege? The persecution of Shiites is the abuse and misuse of the relationship with the United States. The cruelty that the Yemenis are being subjected to would have been characterized as ethnic cleansing if it had been perpetrated by other war-mongering parties.

From the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the world falsely assumed the tensions of the Cold War would give way to a period of genuine peace, global prosperity, collaboration and a shared vision for humanity. Instead, the post-Cold War period has been defined by a never-ending series of global conflicts, many involving the same players who we all had assumed would be leaders of conscience. Their exploitation of the trust, the vulnerability and indeed divisions across the world is unprecedented, both in their ability to resort to barbarity and the naked use of force. 

The most prominent are, of course, the Syrian conflict and the situation in Yemen: conflicts that, though tragic in themselves, are made significantly worse by outside players who seem more concerned with their interests than in a peaceful resolution. These have not only played out in military terms but also in the ever-polarizing media, whose role, it seems, is as much to inform about conflict as it is to fan the flames that ensure such conflicts perpetuate themselves.

These conflicts have also played out behind the scenes in the form of clandestine, often barely concealed partnerships of deadly convenience between so-called champions of democracy, sovereignty, rule of law and some of the most vicious factions and personalities of our time. How can we speak of true democracy when the conditions for peace are entirely dependent on the interests of a single foreign nation or external interested parties that often directly contradict both the will of a nation’s people or indeed that of the wider international community? 

Ladies and Gentlemen: Is this what it means to live in a unipolar world? That nations no longer have the right of their own destiny, choice of leadership, system of government or economic partnership for fear of facing retribution by their Western “masters” for whom such sovereign decisions are an inconvenience? In spite of the interests of otherwise sovereign countries and the wider international community, are we all so powerless to speak up?

There was a time the United Nations was seen as the single most important arbiter between equals: a way for us as equal people of this planet to fairly engage and settle our differences. It is with irony that such a governing body, formed as a direct response to the most violent conflict in human history, is incapable of stopping even the most basic whims and caprices of some of its key member states. 

Now, it seems the United Nations is a place where vulnerable nations amongst others go to beg in vain to an international community held hostage by a few belligerent nations seeking their own ends at the expense of everyone else. Perhaps it is time we revisited what the term United Nations means. Perhaps it’s time the premise of such bodies is made to count in the interest of the voiceless, the beat-upon, and the pillaged nations for whom it is failing so badly. It is time we drew a hard line in the sand and made our numbers count. 

But this is not meant to be all about gloom and doom but about hope and the possibility of change in international security for all. 

In my time as head of state of Ghana, I have seen great suffering and an equal measure of incredible human kindness and solidarity in the face of extreme difficulties. Even in the darkest of times, there was always a chance for hope, change and renewal for people. We captured this need for continuous change and development both in words and in deeds by a simple, yet fundamental philosophy: Probity and Accountability. 

After more than a decade spent working with ordinary Ghanaians to nudge the country bit by bit with great difficulty and sometimes interference, both foreign and domestic, back from the brink of economic and social collapse, we came to understand a little something about the nature of humanity. Big or small, rich or poor, powerful or less powerful, the key to any disparaged group rallying together for an honest shared existence is simply Probity and Accountability: transparency of leadership, accounting for actions and fairness to all. 

Ladies and Gentlemen: Are these not the principles that all nations of the world demand and strive for in their dealings with others? Principles laid down with checks and balances? This simple, yet fundamental principle, now more than ever, is ripe for rediscovery in the face of these challenging times. 

Today, as leaders in the international community stand by, either mute or offering declarations of condemnation, with each successively more blatant abuse of power by one nation or the other, we see the problem escalate and, sadly, perpetuate itself.

Today, we sit by watching as the Yemen situation escalates beyond a human disaster. the most appalling human catastrophe in our time. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, two-thirds of Yemen’s population is food insecure, making the country the world’s largest food security crisis. Millions are suffering from extreme hunger, malnutrition and dire health challenges.

We have become desensitized to the ongoing proxy war waged in the Congo and in Syria at the expense of millions of people who have already died there.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is sad to note that hundreds are being killed in Cameroon in West and Central Africa, all because they seek parity in their basic livelihood. Interestingly France, the United States and her allies seem oblivious to the horrendous situation in that country.

Although the United Nations, the African Union, other international organizations, and even the citizens of the two Cameroons have asked for “an all-inclusive dialogue, without preconditions,” to rapidly curb the massacre that’s carried out on almost a daily basis on the English-speaking people, there is no real concerted diplomatic pressure to stem the tide of violence against a vulnerable group. We have seen no move taken by the government of Cameroon or the international community to bring the two sides to a negotiating table. For how long will the world stay still and watch a government in one part of the globe rob her people of their dignity and their humanity?

The United Nations talks of more than 140 villages burned down; and almost half a million people who are internally displaced. There are another forty thousand who have sought refuge in Nigeria while thousands are languishing in jails under very harsh conditions. I have previously called on France to actively play a pivotal role to end the crisis. Southern Cameroon’s marriage of convenience with the French Cameroon since 1961 has got to be reviewed by the United Nations and the African Union if these people should live together peacefully as one people anytime soon.

Must we wait to see an entire world in perpetual conflict: conflict that swallows up entire populations, splits families and becomes the problem of all in the form of refugees, aid needed for reconstruction, terrorism and global poverty?

Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo, a true patriot by every stretch, was yanked out of his country and delivered to the International Criminal Court by France and its allies. After eight good years, the court found no credible evidence against him and discharged him. Bizarrely, the ICC prosecutor who clearly was operating on the dictates of the embarrassed powers-that-be, decided to shamelessly appeal and once again curtail Gbagbo’s freedom. How can you package him to another country on some twisted bail terms that effectively make him prisoner and prevent his freedom of international travel, including going back to his own country?

Once upon a time the League of Nations became defunct for its failings to perceive and extinguish what became an unprecedented global conflict. If the United Nations and the International Criminal Court today are complacent or crippled by their own internal structure and conflicted interest so that they incapable of preventing any of these abuses from plunging the region and the wider world into anarchy, it might be time for the international community to demand accountability and reform by such global organizations for the interest of all, rather than a few. Or face up to the hard truth about their inadequacy.

Peace will happen if we learn to speak up as a people. The time to stop hiding behind economic and political vulnerabilities is now. A select few cannot afford to cower the majority into submission if they rise up to speak to the truth and defend the ideals of true accountability to all the peoples of the world.

Before I conclude, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me commend UPF’s Dr. Moon, for taking steps to recognize, commend and award individuals who are making great strides in the protection of our planet. The environment like never before is in danger of losing its various species of creatures—from the tiniest ones in the air, those deep in the soil, some of those on the ground, and various varieties in the waters. In my country, I have witnessed several water bodies drying up or becoming heavily polluted at an alarming rate.

These developments in the environment are intrinsically linked to the immoral political theatrics exhibited on the global stage. Many innocent people are dying of the effects of these environmental threats. It is shocking but true to know that, in sub-Saharan Africa, more than 40 percent of the populations still do not have access to potable water, while the Sanitation Index is also less than 40 percent. Certainly, we need to double our efforts to save the human race, and I believe meetings like these can lead the way.

I am hopeful that in exploring security, peace and development, this conference will seek to pursue initiatives that will help to empower us all to stand up for what is right, truthful and progressive for all the peoples of the world.

Thank you.



To go to the 2019 World Summit Schedule page, click here.